Pomodoro Technique Increase Your Productivity

The Pomodoro Technique is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that was first used by its Italian founder when he was a university student. Yep, it’s really that simple. In the 1980’s  Francesco Cirillo was looking for a way to help him study and focus so he grabbed a timer from the kitchen and used it to create short sprints of focus.

The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals of 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks of about five minutes. These intervals are known as pomodori, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for tomato.

The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility and that uninterrupted focus helps accomplish our goal.

Basic Pomodoro Principles

There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally 25).
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an X.
  4. Take a short break (5 minutes).
  5. After four pomodori, take a longer break (15 minutes).

The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing, and visualizing are fundamental to the podomoro technique. In the planning phase, tasks are prioritized by recording them in a “To Do Today” list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As pomodori are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement—always be improving is our motto.

For an extra shot of effectiveness, put your most dreaded task for the day as your first priority. Brian Tracy calls this eating your frog and when you get into the habit of doing the thing you want to do the least first, your entire life will be turned upside-down. Once you eat your frog, everything else you do in the day tastes like awesomeness.

Customize Your Pomodoro

Find the right time-to-break ratio that works best for you. I am currently experimenting with a 35-5 ratio. Thirty-five minutes of work, and five minutes of rest. You body has a natural rhythm that follows a ninety minute cycle called the ultradian rhythm and moves in and out of this ebb and flow while pulsing between high attention to rest.

The body is a pulsing machine, not a rocket on a linear course to the moon—though it can feel that way after a few cups of coffee in the morning.

Focus & Flow

An essential aim of the pomodoro technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible. When interrupted during a pomodoro either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (inform – negotiate – schedule – call back) or the pomodoro must be abandoned.

If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the pomodoro technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing. Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodori can keep you from getting frustrated.

The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks, and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating. You’ll grow to respect the tomato, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

Basic Assumptions

The Pomodoro Technique is founded on three basic assumptions:

  • A different way of seeing time (no longer focused on the concept of becoming) alleviates anxiety and in doing so leads to enhanced personal effectiveness.
  • Better  use  of  the  mind  enables  us  to  achieve  greater  clarity  of  thought,  higher consciousness, and sharper focus, all the while facilitating learning.
  • Employing  easy-to-use,  unobtrusive  tools  reduces  the  complexity  of  applying  the technique while favoring continuity, and allows you to concentrate your efforts on the activities you want to accomplish.

Many time management techniques fail because they subject the people who use them to a higher level of added complexity with respect to the intrinsic complexity of the task at hand. Keep it simple.

No Interruptions

A pomodoro can’t be interrupted. The sacred time slot marks 25 minutes of pure work. A pomodoro can’t be split up. There is no such thing as half of a pomodoro or a quarter of a pomodoro. The atomic unit of time is a pomodoro—a pomodoro is indivisible, undividable and whole in and of itself.

If a pomodoro is interrupted by someone or something, that pomodoro should be considered void, as if it had never been set; then you should make a fresh start with a new pomodoro. When the pomodoro rings, mark an X next to the activity you’ve been working on and take a break for 5 minutes. You are not allowed to keep on working “just for a few more minutes”, even if you’re convinced that in those few minutes you could complete the task at hand.

Breaks Are Essential

The 5 minute break gives you the time you need to disconnect from your work. This allows the mind to assimilate what’s been learned in the last 25 minutes, and also provides you with the chance to do something good for your health, which will help you to do your best during the next pomodoro.

During this break you can stand up and walk around the room, have a drink of water, play the guitar, or water the plants. You can do some deep breathing, stretching, or yoga.

The 15-30 minute break, which is triggered after four consecutive pomodori, is the ideal opportunity to tidy up your desk, make some coffee, listen to voice mail, check Snapchat, or simply rest and do breathing exercises or take a quick walk.

The important thing is not to do anything complex, otherwise your mind won’t be able to reorganize and integrate what you’ve learned or worked on, and as a result you won’t be able to give the next pomodoro your best effort. Obviously, during this break too you need to stop thinking about what you did during the last pomodoro.

Relationship To Time

The passage of time is no longer perceived as negative, but positive. Every pomodoro represents the opportunity to improve. The more time passes, the better chance you have to improve your process and focus. The more time passes, the more easily activities can be estimated, scheduled, and accomplished.

The more time passes, the more the feeling of anxiety is assuaged, and in its place come enhanced consciousness, sharper focus on the present moment. The result is higher productivity and one might argue, higher consciousness.

Frequent breaks with the pomodoro are essential to achieving more lucid, conscious and effective mental capacity with a resulting increase in productivity. It is important to note that in many environments there’s a sort of aversion to breaks, as if they were a sign of weakness.

This extreme behavior reveals a tenaciousness that often lays a solid foundation for frustration and working with a lack of concentration, and consequently a lack of effectiveness. If someone tells you to stay in your seat and get your work done, you should show them this article—or better yet, quit that job and find another place to work.

Take a few days and try the pomodoro technique to help improve your focus and productivity. Buy a tomato timer or download a pomodoro application on your phone. I use the digital pomodoro combined with a Kanban board at kanbanflow.com